I love social history and good biographies, and one of my favourite authors in this area is Anne de Courcy.
She was born in 1927, so I fear we can’t expect too many more books from her. My introduction to her work was her 2000 book The Viceroy’s Daughters: The Lives of the Curzon Sisters about the lives of the three daughters of Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India, and his American wife Mary. One of the girls married Oswald Mosley, and all were glamorous, rich and wilful. It was packed with juicy social detail of the era, and was a fabulous read. She has also written an excellent biography of Diana Mitford, second wife of Oswald Mosley, and another of Edith, Marchioness of Londonderry.
There’s more fascinating social history in 1939: The Last Season, about life in England just before WWII changed things forever, while her Debs at War: 1939 – 1945 looks at the period of the war itself. The Fishing Fleet: Husband Hunting in the Raj was published in 2012 and is also to be highly recommended. Those girls who went out to India in search of husbands (Jane Austen’s aunt was one of them) were known as the ‘fishing fleet’. If they were so unfortunate as to return to England unmarried, they were the ‘Returned Empties’ – poor things!
Anne de Courcy’s style is eminently readable. She packs in lots of facts in a way that is almost novelistic and you race through her books with great pleasure. There are some of hers I have not yet read – a biography of Snowdon, one on Margot Asquith, Chanel’s Riviera: Life, Love and the Struggle for Survival on the Cote d’Azur, 1930 – 1944, and her most recent book The Husband Hunters: Social Climbing in London and New York so I do have more to look forward to.
And as a postscript, I’d like to share with you the full name of Anne de Courcy’s first husband – Michael Charles Cameron Claremont Constantine de Courcy! No wonder she became interested in the aristocracy. I just hope he never had to fill out too many passport application forms!
Do you like to read biographies or social history books? Have you read any of Anne de Courcy’s books? Let me know what you think about this and your other thoughts by leaving a comment.
The Viceroy’s Daughters: The Lives of the Curzon Sisters by Anne de Courcy
1939: The Last Season by Anne de Courcy
Debs at War: 1939 – 1945 by Anne de Courcy
The Fishing Fleet: Husband Hunting in the Raj by Anne de Courcy
Chanel’s Riviera: Life, Love and the Struggle for Survival on the Cote d’Azur, 1930 – 1944 by Anne de Courcy
The Husband Hunters: Social Climbing in London and New York by Anne de Courcy